Britain’s success at securing access to potential vaccines shows that critics who blasted the Government for not joining a European Union procurement scheme were “spectacularly wrong”, a Whitehall source claimed.
The UK has won access to four different types of vaccines.
Boris Johnson’s Government came under fierce attack for not joining the EU’s programme – but a leading Brexiteer claims the UK’s success at agreeing deals shows it was right to stay out.
It is understood that officials warned that joining the scheme could delay the roll out of a successful vaccine in the UK by up to six months.
The decision was controversial, with Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy accusing the Government of “yet again putting ideology before saving lives” Liberal Democrat leadership candidate Layla Moran accused ministers of “putting ideology ahead of public health” and valuing “Brexit over vaccines”.
The Whitehall source said they turned out to be “spectacularly wrong” and claimed the EU remains mired in wrangles over price, payment method and potential liability costs.
John Longworth, the former director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce who today chairs the Foundation for Independence, said Britain’s record on vaccines shows why the country is better off out of the EU.
He said: “The fact that the UK has successfully secured early access to four different types of vaccine and a total of 250 million doses, while the EU languishes behind without having signed a single deal is a tangible example of how Britain is better off outside of the European Union. It illustrates how Project Fear both during and after the referendum was just that – baseless spin designed to intimidate the British public into remaining within a broken, decaying system.
“By being outside of the EU the UK is better placed to cut her own deals tailored exactly to her own needs, rather than a ham-fisted one-size-fits-all approach we endured in the EU.”The UK’s success on vaccines outside the EU will strengthen ambitions that the country can secure a raft of non-EU trade deals. It had been hoped that the outline of a UK-EU free trade deal would be agreed by last month but the deadline passed without success.
New polling by Redfield & Wilton Strategies shows the public impatience with the talks.
Nearly half of people (48 percent) would support or strongly support the UK stopping negotiations with the EU and preparing to do business on World Trade Organisation terms if Brussels refuses to offer Britain a Canada-style free trade deal by the end of the summer.
This was opposed by only 14 percent of respondents.
The Whitehall source argues that if the UK had joined the EU vaccine scheme the European Commission would have an exclusive right to negotiate with vaccine manufacturers on the UK’s behalf. Because Britain is no longer a member state, it would have no say in decisions on which companies to negotiate with, how many doses to buy, at what price, and on what delivery schedule.
However, Labour MP Ms Ribeiro-Addy defended her attack on the Government.
She said: “We are hurtling towards the worst economic recession in history. Who’s secured a deal today, when we’re months away from actually being able to confirm the viability of any vaccination, is far less important than who ends up with the most effective vaccine, and the best deal.
“The benefits of a shared EU procurement scheme are glaringly obvious. So are this government’s ideological reasons for shunning it.
“And let’s face it, the Government haven’t had the best record on procurement during the pandemic, from ventilators to PPE, and lest we forget the debacle that was £16million pounds spent on tests that didn’t even work. It seems they could do with a helping hand.”
A European Union spokesman stressed the EU was “committed to universal, equitable and affordable access to Covid-19 vaccines” and was “negotiating quite intensely with several vaccine developers to build a diversified portfolio of vaccines for EU citizens at fair prices”.
He said negotiations are “advanced with several companies with a promising vaccine candidate”.
THE UK’S VACCINE DEALS
Vaccines are widely seen as the best hope for allowing life to normal and removing the mass threat to life posed by Covid-19.
A deal has been agreed with GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur for 60million doses of a vaccine which, if successful, could be used to protect frontline health and social care workers as early as the first half of next year. Human clinical studies will begin in September.
A 100million-dose deal has been struck with AstraZeneca, which is working in partnership with Oxford University and is already manufacturing its experimental vaccine. The most vulnerable people could receive the jab by the end of the year.
Viagra-maker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech have agreed a 30million-dose deal, and Valneva – which has a factory in Livingston, Scotland, has struck a deal for 60million doses.
The Government is also investing up to £93million in a new “vaccines manufacturing and innovation centre” under construction in Oxford. It will be able to produce enough vaccine doses for the entire UK population in as little as six months when it opens next year.
In addition, it is backing a “cell and gene therapy catapult manufacturing innovation centre” in Braintree, Essex with a £100million investment. Due to open in December next year, it will have the capacity to produce “millions” of doses each month.